MLB Preview: American League is loaded
Published: Tuesday, April 10, 2012
Updated: Monday, April 9, 2012 23:04
The American League saw a plethora of big name free agents change leagues and move from National League teams to the American League. The biggest surprise of the off-season was the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, who landed Albert Pujols, the biggest name on the market.
The Angels have a very solid pitching staff from one to five in the rotation that is led by Jared Weaver and Dan Harren, who provide LA with a strong one-two punch. The Angels could pose the biggest threat to last year’s AL pinnate winner the Detroit Tigers, but before the Angels can contend with the Tigers, they have to get past the powerhouse that is the Texas Rangers. Former MLB pitcher and current minority owner of the Rangers Nolan Ryan opened up his pocketbooks and brought in Japanese League pitching sensation Yu Darvish, the most coveted young arm on the market. The Rangers also bolstered their bullpen by signing former Minnesota Twins closer Joe Nathan. The Rangers lost C.J. Wilson to AL West Division foe the Angels. Wilson was a key cog in the starting rotation for the Rangers over the past several years after making the move from the bullpen to the starting rotation just a few years ago.
The AL Central is the Tigers to lose. Detroit has one of the most complete teams in the majors. Offensively, the Tigers have Miguel Cabrera, who moved from first base back to his original position of third base to accommodate new slugger Prince Fielder. Fielder’s father Cecile played for the Tigers during his career, and his son looks to continue his legacy in the Motor City. The Tigers lost catcher/first baseman Victor Martinez to injury for the season, which would have caused problems for the Tigers until they landed Fielder. The Tigers also have last season’s AL Cy Young and AL MVP Justin Verlander. Verlander became the first pitcher to win the MVP since Dennis Eckersley in 1992 and the first starting pitcher to win the MVP since Roger Clemens in 1986. Verlander boasted a record of 24-5 and an abysmal 2.40 ERA while racking up 250 strikeouts on the season. Verlander also won the unofficial “Triple Crown” award for a pitcher by leading the AL in wins, strikeouts and ERA among all AL pitchers. The Tigers also have Jose Valverde at the end of the bullpen, who was a perfect 49 of 49 on save attempts on the season. The Tigers look to recapture the AL crown and go back to the World Series under skipper Jim Leyland.
The AL East is the most wide open of the divisions. The Boston Red Sox look to bounce back after last season’s historic collapse. With Adrian Gonzalez and Jacoby Ellsbury leading the charge on offense and Josh Beckett and Jon Lester leading the pitching staff, the Red Sox look to spring back from last year. Also looking to bounce back from a down year is Carl Crawford, who may have been feeling the pressure of playing for a new team with a new contract for the first time in his career. Boston fired manager Terry Francona and hired Bobby Valentine. The Red Sox also lost Jonathan Papelbon to the Philadelphia Phillies. They acquired former Oakland Athletics closer Andrew Bailey to fill the closer role vacated by Papelbon. Baily will open the year on the deal after suffering a thumb injury that requires surgery that will have him out until the All-Star break. Also, GM Theo Epstine left the team to take the same position with the Chicago Cubs. The New York Yankees are looking to hold on to their place at the top of the AL East. The Yankees brought in former Seattle Mariners pitcher Michael Pineda to bring some depth to the pitching staff. They also traded A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburg Pirates. Andy Pettit returned to the Yankees after retiring before last season. If Jorge Posada had not retired, the “Four Horseman” - Mariano Rivera, Derek Jeter, Pettit and Posada - came up through the ranks of the Yankees farm leagues together and played 16 seasons together in New York. The Tampa Bay Rays also look to move up in the East and threaten the Yankees for supremacy in the division. The Rays have a handful of talented young stars, including Evan Longoria, David Price and Desmond Jennings. The Toronto Blue Jays also have a viable chance for playoff contention behind the bat of Jose Bautista, who led the American League in home-runs last season. The AL East is up for the taking, and these teams look to be in a constant battle for the division crown.